A love letter to a human–centric workplace

~by Caitlyn Cook

I am a human.

I love art.

Through the work I do, the way I live, I want to help create a sustainable world and sustainable business.

I love eating lasagna or anything with cheese, really.

I have experienced mental illness at different times in my life.

If I were an animal, I’d be a cat.

I want to help people find freedom and wellbeing.

I work in Human-Centred Design at Huddle and I also run a business in mindful embodiment.

My cheeky nieces crack me up.

I want to contribute to making a world where money is not the only thing we care to make and exchange.

Riding my bike makes me feel simultaneously relaxed and powerful.

I am human.

This is who I bring to work. Me.

I don’t check my personality, my me out, when I get to the door at work. 

When the lift dings at level four, I gather up my talent, sneakers and overalls, personality, questions, anxiety, jokes, politics and dreams and cart them with me into the office. 

This is kinda revolutionary.

This way of working hasn’t always been the case for me—I remember my first job out of university as a policy analyst for the New Zealand government. I was excited about changing the world through policy. 

Oh, yes! Young dreams.

And… my 22-year-old energy, colour and passion got hijacked by the super quiet offices, bland hallways, conditioned a-political chat, tight 9-5+ requirements. I sneakily put poetry on the walls and it got taken down every time. Pretty sure Bob Dylan fairies died every time that happened.

I started to wonder, why does professional life have to feel like this? Is this really going to be my life for the next 40 years? It’s sapping people of their creativity, their vibrance, their potential.

Wanting to grow my potential and push my edges, I eventually discovered Service Design, went to art school, moved to Australia and discovered Huddle.

Starting at Huddle as a strategic designer made my brain, heart, art and soul swoon. Huddle saw that humans come to work for them. People, processes, conversations feel human and real rather than ‘professional’ and distant. The space, colour, sound of the office was alive. They cared about my voice, playfulness, your ideas, dissent, colourfulness. 

As a Huddler, you had power, no matter who you are.

While they hired me for my talent and potential, they also knew I was a human with insecurities, questions, growth to be had. They welcomed my vulnerable and amateur parts too and looked at ways to help develop these parts of me. 

There is a sense that you don’t just work for Huddle, Huddle works for you. Yes, you bring your best, stay razor sharp, put in the blood, sweat and tears when you have to, but the company doesn't just want you to be in it for them. They want to create a space for you to become you. Here. 

I can’t say how grateful I am to Huddle for being a place where you’re able to become more yourself, not less. A place where you’re not told who to be as a ‘worker’, but rather asked the question, who do you want to be as a human? 

For me, this has opened up incredible creativity, possibility and wellbeing. It’s meant I have a sense of curiosity, expressing my ideas and taking intiative, sharing when I’m feeling high or low, taking time out, working hard.

Practically, what this looks like for me is not only do wear what feels authentic to me (today, overalls and boots) and listen to music that lifts my heart (today, BadBadNotGood), I negotiated creating a new role in the company because my natural enthusiasm was taking me in that direction (human-centered communications and business development), I choose the hours that best suit with my lifestyle and health (later, generally), and I negotiated remote working so I could teach meditation retreats overseas.

It’s not just a matter of being told what to do: it’s a conversation. The flexibility and two-way dialogue is empowering.

With this freedom comes trust. There’s an expectation that you’ll do the work. Really well. And that’s the thing: because I feel alive, trusted, authentic, I do the work with extra enthusiasm, dedication, vibrance. This kind of trust, the human-ising of the workplace has completely changed how I relate to and am committed to helping Huddle deliver, innovate, grow, help make positive impacts. 

And working at Huddle doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I’m living.

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